9 Lessons We Can Learn From Drawing Rooms
Let these formal rooms inspire you to create entertaining spaces that encourage conversation, music and games
I recently worked on a story about a home with throwback grandeur — and a drawing room. After talking with the designer, I realized that in my thousands of interviews with design pros over the years, it was the first time the term drawing room had been mentioned. The drawing room is a concept mostly from a bygone era, found in grand homes designed for entertaining (think of the after-dinner socializing on Downton Abbey). But there are many elements in these well-thought-out spaces that we can apply to our homes today.
1. Easy flow from the dinner table to a seating area. The concept of the drawing room has evolved over time. The room has moved around the house a bit and sometimes was referred to as a parlor or a salon. During the era of Downton Abbey, the 1910s and ’20, the drawing room centered more around women, while the men hit the adjacent smoking room. To keep it simple, we’ll use the most popular current definition of a drawing room here in the U.S. — a space for after-dinner entertaining for all.
As you can see, it’s just a few steps from the dining room to the drawing room in this home. Think about where you want your guests to gather after dinner — whether in your living room, family room or rec room — and make sure the spaces encourage an easy transition.
2. Comfortable area for conversation. Seating in drawing rooms should be arranged with group conversations in mind. Place
Paul Craig Photography, original photo on Houzz
furniture in a way that people can gather for chatting and no one will feel left out. This may mean pulling out those extra stools and ottomans, and chairs from other rooms, to create conversation areas. There can be more than one grouping.
3. Elegant details. Elaborate chandeliers, sophisticated mirrors, tapestries, stylish mantels and moldings — these are all classic drawing room elements. Bonus points to this room for having a champagne bucket on a stand. But even if your designated entertainment space is the room with a pingpong table in it, you may want to add a few touches to make it special before the party: favorite coasters, fresh flowers, good-looking cocktail tools and serveware, copper mugs for Moscow Mules — you get the idea.
4. Handy spots for drinks. Whether you’re serving after-dinner cocktails or coffee in a room outside the dining room, you’ll want places where your guests can set down their beverages. Cocktail tables, convenient side tables and pieces like Chinese garden stools near seats are important components for entertainment spaces.
5. Convenient serving station.Shuffling back and forth to another room to make drinks takes hosts away from their guests. Roll in a bar cart or set up an espresso station in the same room so that you and your guests can refresh their beverages without anyone’s having to leave the group.
6. Family portrait wall. Drawing rooms offer a chance to show off your family history. No fancy antique oils are required; today you can display favorite family photographs.
Or you may want to display inspiring portraits of those you admire, as Thomas Jefferson did at Monticello, pictured here. The Thomas Jefferson Foundation says the founding father hung portraits that represented key figures in his thinking and in American and world history, including John Locke, Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon, Christopher Columbus, Ferdinand Magellan, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and James Madison.
These days almost any portrait will do, as the art form has become a popular way to decorate.
7. Place for enjoying music. After-dinner entertainment can mean an impromptu concert or busting out some moves. Whether you’ve got a baby grand or a Bluetooth speaker, have your music system set up for entertaining.
Prestige Custom Building & Construction, Inc., original photo on Houzz
8. Tables for playing games.Bridge was often the game of choice in classic drawing rooms, but your main gathering space can benefit from a place that encourages any sort of game playing, even if your game of choice is Cards Against Humanity.
9. Everything clean and in its place. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a staff to clean your living spaces daily, à la Downton Abbey? The modern version of this is giving your space a good once-over before the guests arrive and cleaning up the clutter — that pile of mail, book bags, cat scratcher, dog toys, TV remotes. Get your cards, music, coasters and seating arrangements ready, and your “drawing room” will be good to go.
Contemporary Living Room, original photo on Houzz